Pilot Diane:

If you ever visited the Dollar home during a family dinner, the phrase “one of these things is not like the other” might come mind. I was raised in a somewhat unconventional family of two biological sisters and eight additional adopted or fostered siblings from multiple countries around the world. Growing up in such a dynamic family environment set the stage for pursuing a dynamic life.

When you think of a helicopter pilot, a 31 year young female is probably not what comes to mind right away. I want to change that! After serving four years in the US Coast Guard after high school, I held a number of jobs from working on a yacht to working as a mechanic on cargo ships in dry dock in New England. However, I really fell in love with aviation working search and rescue missions while I was in the US Coast Guard. After years of contemplating flight school, which seemed like a far off dream, I finally turned my dream of becoming a pilot into a reality.

I relocated to Prescott, AZ where I completed my flight training, utilizing the GI Bill to back my training. Flight school was challenging, just as it is for most people. The adage,“it’s like trying to chug water from a fire hose” comes to mind in regards to how much information you intake in a pretty short period of time. I would lock myself in a study room at the library for up to 10 hours in a day with a white board and study material. I didn’t struggle too much in regards to building the physical skill and muscle memory that it takes to fly a helicopter. I would probably attribute my success in that arena to the drum lessons I took for a year prior to flight school to improve on my hand and feet coordination.

I moved to Long Beach, California after obtaining my flight instructor certificate and built my experience and hours as a pilot. Since then, I have enjoyed an 8 year career flying everything from tours in the Grand Canyon, VIP charters, as well as obtaining my certificates to fly airplanes. I now spend my days flying life saving organ transplant teams around Southern California.

I would caution anyone looking to become a career aviator that the path is not an easy one. You will struggle and will live places that you never dreamed of. You might have to move around more than anticipated and you won’t receive a decent paycheck for many years- but, I personally would not have changed my journey for anything. If you have that passion and that desire, go for it!

The industry is a fragile one as we have seen with the effects of Covid 19. It’s a good idea to have a back-up plan for dry spells in the flight industry. I have friends who have been furloughed and deeply affected. Most recently, I have taken up the task of inspiring younger generations to pursue a career in the fascinating field of aviation using platforms such as Instagram and Tiktok to spread my passion for flying. I am also in the midst of producing the Forever On The Fly Podcast which will be released in mid December.


Follow Pilot Diane's journey on social media!

Instagram: @Foreveronthefly

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